Modern research and ancient wisdom suggest that ginseng may have some specific health benefits that help your heart, sex life, and more.
When it comes to herbs with health benefits, ginseng is the OG powerhouse. Packed with potent antioxidants, ginseng has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries to help boost your immune system and your overall well-being.
But a few studies suggest that this unassuming root has a few other superpowers up its sleeve. Here’s a rundown of some of the health benefits of adding ginseng to your diet.
Research says that ginseng may:
Ginseng is packed with antioxidants that help kick chronic diseases to the curb by lowering inflammation. Inflammation is your body’s response to pesky irritants of all kinds, from a splinter in your finger to germs like bacteria or fungus to various inflammatory diseases like bronchitis or dermatitis. Generally speaking, inflammation is a sign that your immune system is fighting back.
Experts think we need more research, but a few studies suggest that ginseng might help improve some of your brain functions like memory and cognition.
One study pointed out that ginseng helps reduce inflammation in your brain. This preclinical evidence suggests that ginseng could help your overall cognition and slow down the mental decline that happens for a lot of folks as they age.
Another study made a case for taking ginseng on a regular basis after a stressful life event in order to help you get back to homeostasis, or a sense of psychological balance. In other words, ginseng might help people suffering from depression or anxiety from teetering into a worse condition.
What could be more discreet packaging for ED treatment than tea? Well, the experts think more rigorous scientific study is needed. Some evidence suggests that ginseng might help with erectile dysfunction.
One study said there was promising evidence that American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) helps your body produce nitric oxide. This little molecule in your body helps your general cardiac health. In the case of helping to ease ED, more nitric oxide in your blood system means better blood flow. And better blood flow equals better boners. (Remember, the penis is an organ, not a muscle.)
But some other studies have shown mixed results as to whether or not ginseng helps with this specific form of sexual dysfunction. One study flat out says that ginseng doesn’t work any better than a placebo to help ED.
There’s some scant evidence that ginseng might also help your immune system. One small study showed that ginseng increased the production of immune-boosting T-cells in a group of 100 healthy adult participants. T-cells are white blood cells pumping through your body that help fight infection and cancer.
Another study found that red ginseng extract – or ginseng that has been harvested after growing for 6 or more years – showed excellent antioxidant effects. Translation: This type of ginseng might help you ward off a cold (or at least make it less sucky).
Although some scientists urge that we need more research to fully understand ginseng’s potential, a growing number of scientists are beginning to recognize that ginseng might help in the fight against cancer.
One of the top causes of death worldwide, cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that can spread to other parts of the body. By fighting inflammation and promoting antioxidants, the ginsenosides in ginseng might help prevent cancerous cells from growing. One study suggests that ginseng’s anti-cancer promise might rank it as a complementary medicine for cancer treatment.
One meta-analysis looking at a collection of ginseng studies found that adding ginseng to your diet can reduce your risk of getting various cancers by as much as 16 percent. This applied to colorectal cancer, lung cancer, gastric cancer, and liver cancer.
A small study showed that taking high doses of American ginseng significantly reduced cancer-related fatigue. But that study was quick to point out that there aren’t enough high-quality studies related to ginseng and its effects on cancer-related fatigue to really give this herb a 10/10 endorsement.
Not to sound all patriotic here, but American ginseng also seems to help lower blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar levels are too high over a period of time, this could lead to some serious health problems like damage to your heart, nerves, kidneys, and eyes.
A small study found that American ginseng lowered average blood sugar levels and fasting blood sugar levels when used over the course of eight weeks along with the usual diabetes treatments. This study also found that American ginseng lowered the participants’ systolic blood pressure. Time to ginseng and chill!
There are a bunch of different products on the market that contain ginseng, like powder, tablets, capsules, or oils. You could add any of these forms of ginseng to food or tea. Look for ginseng supplements that are made up of 2–3 percent ginsenosides, the active ingredient in ginseng.
Ginseng can be pricey, so cheaper is definitely not better here. Buy your supplements from a reputable company so that you can trust that you’re getting a quality product. Also, read those labels to make sure that your ginseng is the real deal. Some herbs might be called ginseng, like eleuthero or Siberian ginseng, but watch out! These posers don’t actually contain ginsenosides. Go for either American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) or Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), both of which have the active ingredients you’re looking for.
If you’re up for a little DIY, try buying some real ginseng root from a local market. You could eat it raw, steam it to soften it, or find a recipe that calls for a little dash of something extra. The easiest route for the root is to slice a few pieces of ginseng and steep them in hot water to make some tea.
As for dosage, there is no established dosage for ginseng, so easy does it. Also, ginseng hasn’t been rigorously studied for safety concerns, so start small. Try 1–2 g of raw ginseng root or 200–400 mg of extract at the beginning. You can up it from there, depending on what your health goals are. And experts advise using ginseng sparingly, like no more than a few weeks or 3 months max.
Though most reported side effects of ginseng are mild, ginseng (like Brittney) isn’t all that innocent. It may cause:
- Tummy troubles
- Menstrual changes
- Allergic reactions
All of these side effects can be cranked up if you have a lot of caffeine in your diet.
Also, talk to your doc before popping ginseng with your meds, especially if you’re on diabetes or depression drugs. Warfarin isn’t a fan of interacting with ginseng either.
Kids, pregnant people, and breastfeeding folks just steer clear. No evidence = not worth the risk.
Ginseng, the superstar herb of Chinese medicine, has a lot going for it. There isn’t a ton of research, but some small studies suggest that because ginseng fights inflammation, it may have some other tricks up its sleeve.
Though the scientific community at large agrees that more detailed study is needed, some evidence shows that ginseng reduces inflammation, boosts brain function, and might even lessen the effects of erectile dysfunction. Plus, it’s a warrior for the immune system and could help ward off certain forms of cancer. Feeling tired? Ginseng might be your secret weapon against fatigue. It can also help lower blood sugar levels, which is great news for those with diabetes.
But, like any celebrity, ginseng has its quirks. Side effects like jitters, headaches, and tummy troubles may pop up, so proceed with caution. And if you’re on certain medications or in delicate situations like pregnancy, play it safe and check with your doctor before adding ginseng to your routine.